Japanese Bitter Gourd Salad

Bitter gourd, bitter melon, goya, karela, balsam-pear… this green, knobbly vegetable is actually known under many different names depending on where you are from! As per its name-sake the flavour of the flesh is very bitter and is an acquired taste at first-  but give it a go and you may never look back!SONY DSC

This cool and refreshing salad has a Japanese-inspired dressing that is rich with the umami of dashi fish stock, sweet mirin and fruity apple vinegar. Crunchy rings of bitter gourd are sweetened with small bursts of sweet tomato cubes and enlivened with fresh mint and lemon-basil leaves. It makes for a wonderful little side dish or appetizer whet the appetite!

Don’t be scared of the bitterness of the bitter gourd- the process of salting to remove some of the juices and then quickly blanching mellows the flavour considerably. If this is your first time trying this vegetable I hope this dish will have you return for seconds!

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Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 3 bitter gourds, cut into 5mm rings with seeds removed
  • 1 fresh tomato, de-seeded and cut into small dice
  • 1 handful of fresh mint leaves
  • 1 handful of fresh lemon-basil leaves
  • 1 large handful of dried bonito flakes

For the dressing:

  • 3″ square of dried kelp
  • 1 large handful of dried bonito flakes
  • 2-3 tsp instant dashi powder
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 1-2 tsp apple vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Method

  1. Make the dressing. Place the dried kelp in a small saucepan and add in enough water to just cover the kelp. Bring to the boil and add in the dried bonito flakes. Cover and remove saucepan from heat. Leave to cool completely, then pour the stock through a fine sieve to remove the kelp and bonito flakes. Reserve the stock and discard the kelp and bonito flakes. Add the mirin, vinegar, sugar and sea salt to the stock. Taste and adjust seasoning if required.
  2. Place the sliced bitter gourd in a colander and massage in approximately 2 teaspoons of salt. Leave to stand for 15 minutes.
  3. Rinse the bitter gourd to remove the salt. Bring to a boil some water (enough to cover the bitter gourd) with a little salt in a large saucepan. Blanch the bitter gourd in the boiling water for 1 minute then refresh in ice water. Transfer the bitter gourd to a colander to drain.
  4. Mix together the stock with the bitter gourd, mint and lemon-basil. Leave to marinate for a least 30 minutes.
  5. Just before serving, mix in the diced tomato and top with dried bonito flakes.

Scallop Dashi Jelly with Marinated Shiitake and Cucumber Salad

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Yet another dish inspired by my recent travels in Tokyo! Tonight’s dinner began with my experimental starter of scallops encased in a soft dashi jelly, served with shiitake mushrooms simmered in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin and sugar, and a zingy cucumber salad lightly pickled in apple vinegar.

I was hoping that you can see the scallop encased in the jelly, but unfortunately the jelly wasn’t clear enough. Next time I will try another technique to see if it will give a better result!

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All in all, it was a winner with my family! I think this would make an elegant starter to any dinner party.    

Japanese Sunny-Side Up for One

A new take on the ordinary fried egg. Light and refreshing, the use of konbu tsuyu (light seaweed-infused soy sauce), dried bonito flakes and shichimi togarashi (7-spice powder) provide a delicious Japanese twist.  Make this dish for a special breakfast or brunch for the ones you love (or just for yourself)!

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Ingredients

  • 1 large egg
  • salt and white pepper
  • 1 medium tomato, cut into eighths
  • 1 handful of dried bonito flakes
  • 1 handful of seasoned seaweed, cut into strips
  • some thinly sliced spring onion
  • shichimi toragashi, to taste 
  • knobu tsuyuto taste
  • sweet chili sauce, to taste

Method

  1. In a small non-stick frying pan (16cm in diameter), pan-fry the egg until done to your liking over medium heat. Lightly season with salt and white pepper. Remove from heat.
  2. Arrange tomato pieces on top of the egg.
  3. Mound bonito flakes in the center and scatter over seaweed strips and sliced spring onion.
  4. Sprinkle over shichimi torigashi, konbu tsuyu and sweet chili sauce